Week 4 – The selection of this week was not easy. We visited Arequipa, a wonderful UNESCO World Heritage city, and discovered the Cañon de Colca, crossing an impressive high plateau reaching an altitude of 4910m and surrounded by 8 volcanoes.
As soon as we arrived in Arequipa we loved it! Its baroque architecture made of the local white volcanic sillar rock is charming, its imposing cathedral stretching all along the plaza de Armas is fantastic and its sculpted baroque churches are beautiful.
The city itself is surrounded by 3 volcanoes rising in an unalterable blue sky: el Misti (5822m), Chachani (6075m) and Pichu Pichu (5664m). The seismic activity here is incredibly high and has wrought the city all along the past 400 years. The last big one was only in 2001.
Its gastronomy is gorgeous and count a lot of specialities like la chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder), el rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy red peppers) and ocopa (boiled potatoes in creamy and spicy sauce). We had the pleasure to savor some of them in the very atmospheric traditional picantería restaurants.
We have been amazed (shocked would be more true for me) by the visit of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. Founded in 1580 by a rich widow, it covers 20 000 square meters and is a real city into the city. It comprises churches, apartments, streets, cloisters, a cemetery and a laundry. We followed a guided visit which was an incredible source of information.
The rich families had to give their second child to God. The first one had to get married and the third one, if a boy, had to enter the army, if a girl, had to stay single. Thus, the second girls aged of 12 were sent to the convent where they stayed 4 years as a novice. Novices were not allowed to speak to anyone but to their family once a month under the supervision of a nun. They lived in small individual rooms and were allowed to go out only twice a day to pray. At age 16, they became nuns and were then allowed to live in an apartment inside the convent and socialize with other nuns. There is much more to say but I will not write everything! Just that the system worked until 1871, when the pop asked for a convent reform. Since then, the nuns have entered only by conviction. The picture of the week concerns one of the streets of the convent where the apartments of the nuns extend (Calle Córdoba).
Just for the record, as I will probably never reach this altitude again, here is a memory of the almost 4910m!